5G & Gaming: Benefits and Constraints

Feb 18, 2021

Even though it has been slowed down by the current pandemic, 5G is making headway into the mainstream. But what are the implications for the gaming market? Can game studios leverage the technology to bring about new experiences?

The economic question

First, we have to talk a bit about the deployment of 5G worldwide. There’s a very real and steep cost to implementing 5G for network providers. 5G uses a higher frequency than 3G and 4G, so while this allows for faster speed and capacity, it decreases the distance the waves can travel. You now need more antennas to cover the same ground, increasing the costs. Because of population density, urban areas will be able to benefit from 5G much earlier than rural areas.

So, what exactly are the incentives for service providers to deploy a costly new network of faster internet for their customers in a large geographic area? Well, being the first provider to do so will provide an advantage for sure to the first-movers with the customers that want this new technology. There is also the promise of the telco edge computing; the idea of deploying compute resources along with 5G antennas. This would allow developers, including game developers, to tap into compute resources close to the users. Telco companies would then sell this computing power to developers, allowing them to have recurring revenue. This allows real-time low-latency interaction, which can create new interactive scenarios between users in games and multimedia experiences.

The new features

A new feature that we will see happening in mobile networks is CUPS. It stands for Control & User Plane Separation. For developers, this means that the player’s traffic will get a public IP straight at the antenna and will be able to go on the internet without having to be first routed to a centralized core. This, along with 5G low latency RF, will minimize overall latency.

Some other features are also implemented and we’re not sure yet how the gaming space will be able to use them. One of those is called “Slicing” where, through a simple API request, you can create some sort of virtual network for a set of players/devices. While this is seen as an enterprise feature, for now, we think this could eventually be used by studios to increase security and prevent cheating.

The internet of things

5G can become an enabler for the internet of things because of the constant and stable connection it can provide. For gaming, that means gaming can become more “physical”, with more interaction between the gaming device, all the surrounding IoT objects and the environment. For example, we have seen the success of gamified training devices such as the Nintendo Ring Fit. With IoT devices connected with 5G, you could collect points for any kind of exercises you do during your day-to-day: IoT dumbbells, IoT bicycle, IoT golf club, etc.

These are all speculative at this point, and we will leave it to the imagination of creators to find out how this can manifest into new types of gaming scenarios. But the possibilities are close to endless.

5G and real-time

One of the advantages of 5G is the speed and stability it brings. Mobile devices will become much more reliable in terms of connectivity, allowing for more real-time interactions between players. It would not be surprising to see more and more mobile real-time multiplayer games becoming popular in the aftermath of 5G implementation in a geographic market. Players will be able to enjoy their game on-the-go like never before, and developers will be able to enhance the players’ real-time experiences.

We already see in the mobile gaming space trend towards high production quality games. Titles such PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty mobile are now played by millions around the world. Esports tournaments with millions of dollars in prices are taking place on mobile platforms. Adding to this trend is the move towards cross-platform which is becoming the norm, and we can see a future where mobile, consoles and PC are seen as 1 and players are just enjoying their games on their platform of choice. With UCG (User content generated) also growing in popularity, being able to use mobile devices on a fast network can only make this much easier for players to not only play in those games but creates new content for other players along the way.

What’s in it for gaming?

The implementation of 5G comes with its set of delays and issues to be solved before it is fully operational for mainstream customers. However, it brings to life new possibilities of interaction that the world has yet to fully grasp. We will see in the next few years how the creatives of this world will be able to enhance and create experiences with this new technology, and how much impact it will have on our daily lives. The gaming industry has already realized that mobile games are no longer limited to casual gameplay, the growth seen in that space shows that the best is yet to come.

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